Do Female Politicians Influence Women's Fashion Choices?

When you think of famous fashion icons, female politicians are probably not your first choice. As part of the job, female politicians are expected to look smart and, very often, unfeminine, as femininity is still viewed as a weakness for many figures in the political realm. Can these women, however, be seen as an influence on fashion?

One politician who knew the importance of dressing well was Margaret Thatcher. While she may have strongly divided opinions in terms of policy, the dressmaker's daughter turned Iron Lady was always immaculately turned out in public. Her power suits and Eighties hair encompassed not only the top end of fashion during her time in power but also sent a message to the nation that this was a woman who meant business. Her influence on fashion is clear - she was photographed for Vogue several times - and her style legacy is just as memorable now as the political legacy she left Britain with.

Since the power-dressing Iron Lady, have any other female politicians shown the same style? It appears not in Britain, whose female politicians have lived up to our conservative and old-fashioned image. America, however, has Sarah Palin - her red patent pumps and rimless glasses sent a clear message to people who might have previously ignored politics and sent the fashion world in America into a frenzy during the 2008 presidential elections.

Part of the problem is that politics is, and has long been, a male-dominated field. Women who take risks with their fashion open themselves up to debate about their capabilities as a politician and whether they'd rather be out shopping instead. This is a problem that women in government must overcome before they can ditch the conservative suits and be taken seriously both for their work and their style.

With more women than ever before in Parliament and governments worldwide, it seems hopeful that the message that women are just as capable - in a blouse that hints at cleavage or a demure twinset - as men are in the political field. Until then, we will just have to hope that the sexism that plagues fashion in politics catches up with the rest of the world.